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From the Front Lines: Trucking

When it comes to trucking insurance, independent agency president Lance Smith says you should know not just insurance but also the issues and obstacles your clients face every day.
Sponsored by

LSmith{MWP}-25Lance Smith

PJC Insurance Agency, a member of Sunstar Insurance Group
Springfield, Missouri

Why trucking insurance?

I’ve been around trucks my entire life. My parents had a business and trucks were always a big part of it, so I’ve seen it from that perspective. Therefore, I had a well-rounded knowledge and experience base to pull from and understood the challenges from both sides of the fence. I’ve always been a strong proponent of carving out a niche, and I felt this was a good opportunity to do just that.

How did you get started at your agency?

I started directly in sales after getting a degree in finance and insurance. Combined with the agency’s strong emphasis on trucking insurance, it was a natural fit from there. I eventually purchased the agency with my business partner, who had expertise outside of trucking.

Biggest trucking insurance industry changes?

Data and technology, as it is in every industry, are rapidly advancing. Trucks are continually spinning off larger quantities of data. How the trucking companies utilize that data to gain efficiencies and improve safety has been a key change in the last few years as everyone tries to decipher and apply that data in the best way possible. Insurance carriers need to assist with this process as they are also having to adjust their rating formulas, risk selection and more on an ongoing basis as a result.

Biggest challenges?

Trucking companies are continually enhancing the role of the driver and working to improve their quality of life—and hopefully attracting and retaining that quality of workforce—in the process. What role can insurance play in helping combat this challenge?  Additionally, the trucking industry is facing increased complexity and regulatory issues all the time. How do smaller trucking companies adapt and survive in that environment?

Insurance carriers must make sure the data points they’re basing decisions on are accurate and relevant. The information and data that are available today are being abused and misinterpreted by plaintiff attorneys to the detriment of the industry—and eventually consumers because prices will have to go up to combat that. The insurance industry is a critical driver of defending and adjusting to this reality.

Future trends?

Insurance is usually the No. 3 expense of a trucking company. The increasing segmentation within the marketplace can play havoc with the trucking company’s cost structure and profitability. Open communication and preparation are key. Your client could be in the middle of negotiating a long-term contract with a customer, and they don’t need surprises.

From a trucking company’s perspective, trying to maintain that competitive edge from a driver selection and fleet efficiency standpoint is going to become the difference between success and failure to an even larger degree. It’s a business of thin margins.  Companies need to understand where the best places are to invest capital, such as safety technologies and camera systems. They need to embrace these changes and enhancements, not fear them. 

Advice for a fellow agent?

Truly specialize. If you want to write trucking insurance, don’t try to do anything else. I’ve done nothing but trucking for 24 years and you have to dive into the industry and understand it completely. You should know not just the insurance piece but what issues and obstacles your clients face every day.

Favorite success story?

It’s always satisfying whenever you help a client that has very few options and then see them come full circle and largely regain control of their situation. You’re a trusted partner to your client as you help them navigate an increasingly complex and challenging part of their business. One of the best compliments you can ever receive is: “I would have sold my business years ago if you hadn’t taken care of this for me.”

AnneMarie McPherson is IA assistant editor.